Free Agent Profile: DE Antonio Smith

Given the anticipated departures of Igor Olshansky and Ian Scott, the Chargers are all but forced to add another defensive lineman this offseason. The team got a good look at one candidate during the Super Bowl, as Cardinals DE Antonio Smith is a 3-4 lineman who could flourish in San Diego's defense.

Antonio Smith (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) is the prototypical defensive end for the 3-4 defense. He has the size and strength to hold his ground at the point of attack, occupying two offensive linemen and keeping his linebackers clean. He doesn't leave all the dirty work to the linebackers, however, as he's bagged more than 40 tackles in each of the last two seasons.

Smith also brings plenty to the table as a pass rusher. He has nine sacks over the last two seasons; last year, no Chargers D-lineman registered more than two.

DE Antonio Smith
Harry How/Getty

During the season, Amberly Richardson -- a former reporter who is now the publisher at -- talked with Arizona Cardinals franchise player Karlos Dansby about Smith.

"He's one of the top three-techniques in the game right now for defensive ends," said Dansby of Smith. "He has a lot of potential and he still has a lot of growing [to do]. He hasn't even hit his prime yet."

Smith, 27, is the kind of player typically targeted by GM A.J. Smith during free agency. Antonio is a proven commodity who comes with a high ceiling and a low price tag, at least compared to the likes of Albert Haynesworth and Julius Peppers.

It also helps that Smith has more quickness and athleticism than the other defensive linemen on the Chargers roster -- essential attributes in the eyes of new defensive line coach Don Johnson, formerly of the Chicago Bears.

Smith would fit into San Diego's 3-4 defense seamlessly. In fact, during the 2008 Senior Bowl, Cardinals defensive line coach Ron Aiken talked to publisher Michael Lombardo about the numerous similarities between San Diego's 3-4 scheme and Arizona's hybrid defense.

Aiken was not at this year's Senior Bowl to elaborate -- he was too busy readying his troops for an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII. Perhaps, with the addition of Smith, the Chargers coaches could find themselves in a similar situation next season.

To read what some current Cardinals players have to say about Smith, courtesy of interviews by Amberly, check out the Insider Message Boards.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 15 years and covered the team since 2003.

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